U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
OSERS is assisting adults with disabilities through its funding of Centers of Independent Living (CILs) and IL Net, a training and technical assistance project to support CILs.
The office is also providing more than $2 million in emergency funding to the CILs in the Gulf region and in areas where evacuees have been sent. The CILs provide vital direct services to individuals with disabilities to help them with important living and employment supports such as housing, transportation, personal attendant services, technology, medical equipment and access to healthcare and benefits.
They help local officials and communities provide guidance for making buildings and communities accessible to people with all disabilities, tens of thousands of whom have been displaced and relocated as a result of the hurricanes, in areas without the needed supports and equipment they require. Many of the CILs have been designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as points of contact for individuals with disabilities, and CILs will be the primary sources of expertise for rebuilding damaged/destroyed communities with and access issues in mind. The increased funding will be used for three main purposes:
- Rebuilding the damaged/destroyed centers.
- Helping relocated people with disabilities with critical needs.
- Moving people with disabilities out of nursing homes (Because many shelters are not accessible, a large number of people with disabilities are being funneled into nursing homes and it is extremely difficult for them to relocate into community-based housing once they are there.)
OSERS is also working with officials in the four Gulf states impacted by the hurricanes to address the concerns of students with disabilities and their families. Students and families are being assisted through Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) and Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs) in their local communities or in communities where they have been relocated. OSERS has provided an additional $200,000 in emergency funding to assist at this time of urgent need. Families needing assistance can contact their closest PTI or CPRC. A list of centers around the country is available at http://www.taalliance.org/.
In addition, OSERS is supplementing by $300,000 its funding to the IL Net, a collaborative training and technical assistance project of the Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) program in Houston and the National Council on Independent Living in Arlington, Va. ILRU is now operating a disaster management assistance line for CILs and statewide independent living councils (SILCs). CILs and SILCs in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and other centers serving evacuees can call for information about disaster related resources for people with disabilities and assistance in center reconstruction and restoration. Additional information on this effort is available at http://www.ilru.org/.
Through its National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), OSERS is devoting an additional $150,000 for data collection on hurricane-related evacuation issues such as timeliness, information channels, accessible egress, and preparedness. The objective is to record actual experiences so as to better identify needs and viable solutions for people with disabilities in a future disaster. This activity will assist future emergency preparedness activities.
The Emergency Preparedness Initiative (EPI) coordinated by the National Organization on Disability, with OSERS funding, is assessing delivery of services and recovery efforts for the nearly 250,000 men, women and children with disabilities living in the impacted area. Four rapid assessment teams composed of nationally recognized special needs emergency management practitioners are currently on the ground in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Data being gathered includes information about response efforts, how long-term and short-term needs are being addressed and where gaps exist. Upon completion of analysis of the collected data, all findings will be documented for EPI to rapidly distribute these action items throughout all federal, state, and local authorities coordinating response and recovery efforts. EPI is currently providing outreach, awareness, and education via a $1 million congressionally designated earmark through the U.S. Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Administration, a component of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. More information is available at http://www.nod.org/.